Turning 90 would be a major cause for celebration in anyone’s life, but when you’re Her Majesty the Queen, it’s a national public event. The British do love a celebration, particularly when it comes to the Royal family, so the recognition of our longest-serving Monarch’s milestone birthday is set to bring out the best.
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The Queen’s actual birthday is April 21, although this tends not to be a point of public focus and is celebrated more privately by the Royal family. Confusingly, her official birthday traditionally takes place on a Saturday in June, but for this occasion, celebrations will begin in May.
May 12th to 15th will see the first of two major public celebrations, with a nightly event at Windsor castle. The 90-minute long performance will include music, dance, screen projections and even 900 horses, to reflect the Queen’s life and interests. Sadly, tickets for the spectacle sold out almost immediately after they went on sale in November, but ITV will broadcast the final night on television, which the Queen herself will attend.
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June will bring further celebrations, including a National Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral on June 10th and the Queen’s Birthday Parade on Horse Guards Parade in London on June 11th her official birthday. Again, these will be broadcast by the BBC for viewers to watch at home.
June 12th will see the Queen attend the Patron’s Lunch, which is the main culmination of public celebrations, in which 10,000 guests will be invited to attend a giant street party on the Mall in London. Tickets have been prioritised to charitable organisations, with just a minimum going to a public ballot. However, the public are being strongly encouraged to organise their own celebratory events to also mark the occasion, and whether on a large or small scale there’s still plenty of opportunity to get involved yourself.
Throw A Street Party
The Patron’s Lunch website is full of advice for hosting your own street party, although you will need to have told your local council four to six weeks in advance of the event in order to apply for road closures. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee saw almost 10,000 applications to councils for street parties, so it is likely that there will be an event taking place nearby, whether or not you have organised your own. There is an interactive map on the website marking out celebrations already registered.
Picnic benches, bright tablecloths and bunting are among the essentials needed to make any street party a success. The Patron’s Lunch organisers will be launching branded products and merchandise available to purchase, although given the public taste for celebration, bunting shouldn’t be hard to come by during June!
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Picnic In The Park
If you’re unable to go to the lengths required to organise a street party, you can still celebrate outside on a smaller scale with a picnic. Although the word itself derives from the French term ‘pique-nique’, thanks to the likes of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, picnics have long been associated with traditional British forms of celebration and leisure. Pick an outdoors location, from your local park to even your own garden and instruct your guests to each bring a few contributions. Classic picnic food tends to be ‘finger food’ to avoid the need for complicating things with too much cutlery, so sandwiches, mini cheeses, pork pies and scotch eggs all make good choices. Make it a real traditional picnic by bringing a picnic blanket, fold away chairs and even a proper hamper. Although dining al-fresco can be risky with the British weather, fingers crossed the timing of the Royal birthday in the summer will bring sunny skies.
If you live in London, St James’s Park and Green park will host public screens on June 12th to broadcast the Patron’s Lunch celebrations. Arrive early with your picnic, as security will be tight, with room for 15,000.
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One of the particularly great British traditions, dating back to the early nineteenth century, afternoon tea tends to be relatively easy to assemble and works well for smaller groups celebrating the event at home. Start with a selection of mini sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Favourites tend to include cucumber and cream cheese, egg mayo, ham and mustard and smoked salmon. Follow with scones, with jam and clotted cream and a couple of mini cakes and biscuits. Of course, tea should be served throughout from a proper teapot – the tea of choice at Buckingham Palace is said to be Earl Grey. Newer incarnations of afternoon tea often include a glass or two of fizz to make it a real celebration and of course, offer an opportunity to toast the occasion.
To make it truly in line with tradition, afternoon tea should be served around 4pm. Any later, and it becomes ‘high tea’ at around 5-6pm, in place of a late dinner. This refers to the height of the table the tea would be served on, as later tea served on a dining table would be higher than afternoon tea served in a sitting area!
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Raise A Glass
One of the most straightforward ways to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, is simply to head to your local and raise a glass. On Friday June 10th and Saturday June 11th 2016, pub opening hours will be extended past the usual limitations to mark the celebration – so be sure to find a nice hostelry within walking distance of your lodgings!
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